March 13, 2006

3/13/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Happy Purim/Recipes/My Published Letter to the Editor

2. Suggestions Welcome on Article and Letter on Passover and Vegetarianism

3. Plans for “Environmental Shabbat” on Earth Day Going Forward

4. Israeli Group Announces Environmental Activities

5. Update From Rabbi Yonassan Gershom on "Big Brother and
the Chicken Police"

6. Nation's Largest Kosher Slaughterhouse Violated Animal Cruelty Laws/JVNA Press Release

7. Jewish Vegetarian Material at Wikipedia Encyclopedia

8. Canfei Nesharim Appoints a Paid Executive Director

9. Excerpts From the Latest Canfei Nesharim Newsletter

10. Benefits of “Eco-kashrut” Activities

11. Problems in the Chicken Industry Due to Bird Flu

12. Climate Change is Real and Must Be Addressed Now

13. Great American Meatout Scheduled for Monday March 20, 2006/My Letter

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Happy Purim/Recipe/My Published Letter to the Editor

Purim begins Monday evening, March 13, 2006.

From a message from Yosef Hakohen:
For further information on Purim, visit: (holiday section). And for a deeper understanding of Purim, you may wish to read the superb article, "Purim: The Holiday in Hiding" by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman.
For Purim recipes, visit the JVNA web site recipe section:
My letter to the editor that was published in the San Francisco Jewish Bulletin:

Esther and veggies

According to the Talmud, Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, was a vegetarian while she lived in the palace of King Ahasuerus, in order to avoid violating the kosher dietary laws while keeping her Jewish identity secret.

Therefore, Purim is an ideal time for Jews to consider a shift toward vegetarian diets.

This dietary change would be consistent with important Jewish mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, help hungry people and pursue a more peaceful, less violent world.

While Purim commemorates the triumph of the Jews in ancient Persia over their oppressors, a shift to plant-based diets would enable contemporary Jews to reverse current threats from an epidemic of disease related to animal-based diets and the many environmental problems related to modern intensive animal-based agriculture.

Richard Schwartz Staten Island, N.Y.

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2. Suggestions Welcome on Article and Letter on Passover and Vegetarianism

With Passover just 30 days after Purim, I am planning to send my article and letter below to the Jewish media and rabbis soon. Hence, I welcome any suggestions that you may have for improvements. I also encourage you to use material in my article and letter as a basis of your own articles, letters, and talking points. Thanks.

Passover and Vegetarianism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Passover and vegetarianism? Can the two be related? After all, what is a seder without gefilte fish, chicken soup, chopped liver, chicken, and other meats? And what about the shankbone to commemorate the paschal sacrifice. And doesn't Jewish law mandate that Jews eat meat to rejoice on Passover and other Jewish festivals?

An increasing number of Jews are turning to vegetarianism and they are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers while being consistent with Jewish teachings.

Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Passover seder or any other time. According to the Talmud (Pesachim 109a), since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews need not eat meat to celebrate Jewish festivals. Scholarly articles by Rabbi Albert Cohen in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and Rabbi J. David Bleich in Tradition magazine provide many additional sources that reinforce this point. Also, Israeli chief rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Goren, late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rabbi Sha'ar Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, were or are strict vegetarians

The use of the shankbone originated in the time of the Talmud as a means of commemorating the paschal lamb. However, since the Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Huna, states that a beet can be used for this purpose, many Jewish vegetarians substitute a beet for the shankbone on the seder plate (Pesachim 114b). The important point is that the shankbone is a symbol and no meat need be eaten at the seder.

Jewish vegetarians see vegetarian teachings reinforced by several Passover themes:

1. At the seder, Jews say, "Let all who are hungry come and eat". As on other occasions, at the conclusion of the meal, birkat hamazon is recited to thank God for providing food for the world's people. This seems inconsistent with the consumption of animal-centered diets which involves the feeding of 70% of the grain grown in the United States and two-thirds of the grain that we export to animals destined for slaughter and the importing of beef from other countries, while an estimated 20 million of the world's people die of hunger and its effects annually.

Although he is not a vegetarian, Rabbi Jay Marcus, Spiritual Leader of the Young Israel of Staten Island, saw a connection between simpler diets and helping hungry people. He commented on the fact that "karpas" (eating of greens) comes immediately before "yahatz" (the breaking of the middle matzah) for later use as the "afikomen" (dessert) in the seder service. He concluded that those who live on simpler foods (greens, for example) will more readily divide their possessions and share with others.

2. Many Jewish vegetarians see connections between the oppression that their ancestors suffered and the current plight of the billions of people who presently lack sufficient food and other essential resources. Vegetarian diets require far less land, water, gasoline, pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources, and thus enable the better sharing of God's abundant resources, which can help reduce global hunger and poverty.

3. The main Passover theme is freedom, and at the Passover seder we retell the story of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt and their redemption through God's power and beneficence. While acknowledging that only people are created in God’s image, many Jewish vegetarians also consider the "slavery" of animals on modern "factory farms". Contrary to Jewish teachings of "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" (the Torah mandate not to cause unnecessary "pain to a living creature"), animals are raised for food today under cruel conditions in crowded confined spaces, where they are denied fresh air, sunlight, a chance to exercise, and the fulfillment of their natural instincts. In this connection, it is significant to consider that according to the Jewish tradition, Moses, Judaism's greatest leader, teacher, and prophet, was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because as a shepherd he showed great compassion to a lamb (Exodus Rabbah 2:2).

4. Many Jewish vegetarians advocate that we commemorate the redemption of our ancestors from slavery by ending the current slavery to harmful eating habits through the adoption of vegetarian diets.

5. Passover is the holiday of springtime, a time of nature's renewal. It also commemorates God's supremacy over the forces of nature. In contrast, modern intensive livestock agriculture and animal-centered diets have many negative effects on the environment, including air and water pollution, soil erosion and depletion, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, and contributions to global warming.

Jewish vegetarians view their diet as a practical way to put Jewish values into practice. They believe that Jewish mandates to show compassion to animals, take care of our health, protect the environment, conserve resources, and share with hungry people, and the negative effects that animal-centered diets have in each of these areas, point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet for Jews (and others) today.

Sources for further information on connections between Judaism and vegetarianism include:

1. The International Jewish Vegetarian Society; 855 Finchley Road, London NW 11, England (

2. Judaism and Vegetarianism by Richard Schwartz, new, revised edition (New York: Lantern, 2001)

3. The web site of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA):, including over 100 articles at by Richard H. Schwartz.

4. Micah Publications; the source for books on Judaism and vegetarianism and related issues; 255 Humphrey Street, Marblehead, Massachusetts 01945; or (
They have published vegetarian-friendly haggadahs, "Haggadah for the Liberated Lamb" and "Haggadah for the Vegetarian Family", both by Roberta Kalechofsky, founder and director of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications, which contains traditional and new material for a vegetarian seder, including recipes, songs, notes, readings, and a bibliography, and "The Jewish Vegetarian Year Cookbook" by Roberta Kalechofsky and Rosa Rasiel, which includes many recipes suitable for Passover. They also have a vegetarian Passover cookbook and a video cassette that describes a vegetarian seder.

Other books that have vegetarian recipes appropriate for Passover include "No Cholesterol Passover Recipes" by Debra Wasserman and Charles Stahler and "Vegan Passover Recipes" by Nancy Berkoff, both published by the Vegetarian Resource Group (P. O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203;, and "Jewish Vegetarian Cooking" (the official cookbook of the International Jewish Vegetarian Society) by Rose Friedman (Thorsons Publishers).

Dear editor,

As President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America and author of “Judaism and Vegetarianism,” I suggest that we commemorate the redemption of our ancestors from slavery this Passover by ending the current slavery to harmful eating habits.

An increasing number of Jews are finding ways to celebrate vegetarian Passovers consistent with Jewish teachings. Contrary to a common perception, Jews are not required to eat meat at the Passover seder or any other time.

Several Passover themes have vegetarian connections:

* At the seder, Jews say, "Let all who are hungry come and eat." Vegetarian diets require far less land, water, fuel, pesticides, fertilizer, and other resources, and thus enable the better sharing of God's abundant resources, which can help reduce global hunger and poverty.

*Passover is the holiday of springtime, a time of nature's renewal. It also commemorates God's supremacy over the forces of nature. In contrast, the production of meat has many negative environmental effects.

* The main Passover theme is freedom. While relating the story of our ancestors' slavery in Egypt and their redemption, many Jewish vegetarians also consider the "slavery" of animals on modern “factory farms".

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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3. Plans for “Environmental Shabbat” on Earth Day Going Forward

I am continuing my efforts to have the Jewish community celebrate Earth Day 2006, which occurs on Saturday, April 22, this year as an “Environmental Shabbat.” Please help spread the word about this campaign, work with local rabbis, educators, and other local Jewish leaders to plan “Environmental Shabbat” events in your community, and send me suggestions for making the campaign as effective as possible.

Two groups that have already endorsed the campaign are:
* The Shalom Center
* The Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership
Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature

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4. Israeli Group Announces Environmental Activities

Forwarded message from Derech Hateva:

Looking for an exciting new Israel program for teens in the summer or for synagogue groups, schools or families year-round?

JOIN Derech Hateva, now part of SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) for single and multi-day Shomer Shabbat, kosher nature-based programs that challenge participants to explore and engage with the people and land of Israel. Derech Hateva creates small group programs that integrate outdoor skills, Torah learning, ecology, and Leave No Trace ethics using an original outdoor Jewish curriculum and customized sourcebooks.

ISRAEL TRAIL TEEN ADVENTURE: July 2nd- August 1st, 2006

JOIN Derech Hateva, for a month of fun & challenge as we backpack down the Israel Trail in the North of Israel and trek in the desert with camels again this summer.

During this outdoor experience, you will learn outdoor, leadership and teamwork skills as you combine hiking, biking, swimming and rock climbing with Torah-learning and volunteering with other amazing teens who are looking for an extraordinary summer adventure in Israel.

Make friends for life with North Americans, Brits and Israelis in small groups (max 12) of separate boys and girls, from ages 14-17. ITTA is Shomer Shabbat and Kosher. Each group is staffed with 2-3 professional, warm and friendly guides/educators.

Space is very limited. APPLY TODAY

Derech Hateva also runs full programs for high schools, organizations and families, who come to Israel for varied lengths of time. Add a Jewish outdoor educational nature component to your next Israel trip or let us organize your whole visit. Contact us for details.

Call: 212-537-6280
Visit our website:

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5. Update From Rabbi Yonassan Gershom on "Big Brother and the Chicken Police"

As a follow-up to my article on "Big Brother and the Chicken Police," here's a link to an excellent article that backs up my theory that bird flu is not a backyard poultry problem, it's a factory farm problem, created and spread by the transnational poultry industry. However, it is being presented as a "backyard poultry problem" to force free-run poultry-raising into oblivion.
Read on at:

"Fowl Play: The Poultry Industry's role in the Bird Flu Crisis"

Rabbi Gershom

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6. Nation's Largest Kosher Slaughterhouse Violated Animal Cruelty Laws/JVNA Press Release

Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant
New York Times
Published: March 10, 2006

An internal report from the Agriculture Department has found that one of the nation's leading kosher slaughterhouses violated animal cruelty laws and that government inspectors not only failed to stop the inhumane practices but also took improper gifts of meat from plant managers.

Also, some of the plant's 10 inspectors made faulty inspections of carcasses, failed to correct unsanitary conditions and were seen sleeping and playing computer games on the job, said the report, by the agency's inspector general. It was provided to The New York Times by the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Conditions at the plant — AgriProcessors Inc. of Postville, Iowa — created a controversy in late 2004, when PETA released a videotape taken clandestinely inside. It showed that after steers were cut by a ritual slaughterer, other workers pulled out the animals' tracheas with a hook to speed bleeding. In the tape, animals were shown staggering around the killing pen with their windpipes dangling out, slamming their heads against walls and soundlessly trying to bellow. One animal took three minutes to stop moving.

The scenes caused a furor among Jewish organizations around the world. Some accused PETA of promoting anti-Semitic libels that kosher slaughter is torture. But others were angry with AgriProcessors for violating the spirit of religious laws requiring that animals be killed without suffering.

Soon after, the plant changed its practices under pressure from the Agriculture Department, the Orthodox Union kosher certification authority and Israel's chief rabbinate.

In September, the department told the plant that in light of those changes, "legal action will not be instituted at this time," but warned that future violations could lead to it.

AgriProcessors is the country's largest producer of meat certified glatt kosher, the highest standard for cleanliness under kosher law. ("Glatt" means smooth, or free of the lung blemishes that might indicate disease.) Employing 700 people and selling under the brands Aaron's Best, Rubashkin's and Iowa's Best Beef, it is the only American plant allowed to export to Israel.

After a six-month investigation, the Agriculture Department suspended one of its own inspectors for 14 days and gave warning letters to two others, a department spokesman said. He declined to describe which offenses brought which punishments.

The inspector general's office gave its report to federal prosecutors, but "based on the information presented to us, we decided there was not a prosecutable case," said Robert Teig, a lawyer in the United States attorney's office for the northern district of Iowa.

The investigation ended last April, but the report was released to PETA only after months of appeals under the Freedom of Information Act. The group will release it today on its Web sites, including

PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk, said the Agriculture Department "should fire all the inspectors who accepted gifts and did nothing about these egregious abuses of the animals whom they are supposed to protect." Bruce Freidrich, a PETA spokesman, added that the punishment "indicates yet again that the U.S.D.A. is completely uninterested in enforcing the law."

At issue was a "second cut" the plant formerly made.

Under Jewish law, an animal cannot be considered kosher if it is stunned before it is killed. The Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 requires stunning in all American slaughterhouses, but has an exception for religious slaughter, as long as the animal's neck is cut swiftly and no "carcass dressing" is done before the animal is insensible.

But at AgriProcessors, a second worker would step in after the first cut by the shochet, or ritual slaughterer. He would use a knife to open the animal's neck further and reach in with a hook to pull out the trachea and esophagus, with the carotid arteries attached. This was done to speed bleeding; kosher meat must contain as little blood as possible.

The 15-page report contains summaries of interviews with inspectors and supervisors then or formerly at the plant. All names were whited out, but it is clear that some inspectors thought they were not supposed to interfere with ritual slaughter and usually did not even watch the "kill box." Visiting supervisors also raised no objections to the killing.

But the report also says a district supervisor concluded after the PETA tape was released that the trachea-pulling "should not occur while an animal is conscious or sensory."

Mike Thomas, a spokesman for AgriProcessors, said the practice was immediately discontinued and the shochet was given a stun gun for any animal conscious after the first cut. Meat from that animal would be sold as nonkosher. Mr. Thomas said the shochets never used the stun gun in the first four months they had it, when he was checking regularly.

The report also describes multiple incidents in which plant employees gave inspectors packages of chicken wings, steaks, turkey, sausage or beef bacon. Although it was sometimes delivered with the words "Here's your sample, Doc," as if it were for laboratory tests, the inspectors sometimes cooked and ate it on the spot.

While the report describes accepting such gifts as "misconduct" and "very serious," investigators concluded that no bribery was involved, a department spokesman said.

Mr. Thomas of AgriProcessors said he knew nothing about gifts of meat, but said that such handouts were not company policy and that "there certainly was no quid pro quo." Someone might have given them "to be neighborly," he said.

The report also described an inspector sleeping as obviously infected chickens came down the line and doing inspections with his hands pocketed instead of checking meat for contamination as required. A supervisor was described as spending hours in the office playing hearts on the government computer.

The report said that the day after the PETA tape was made public, inspectors warned plant management to clean up hides, blood and garbage lying around because supervising investigators were on their way.

Mr. Thomas said the warning was irrelevant. The plant, he said, had invited the Agriculture Department to inspect it more closely after the tape was released "because that was the only way to settle it."

The plant is at the center of a 2000 book, "Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America," by Stephen G. Bloom, which described the tensions in the tiny farming town between residents and Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn who took over its defunct slaughterhouse in 1987.

March 13, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact person: Richard H. Schwartz, President of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) (; Phone (718) 761-5876; web site:


In its March 10 article, "Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant", the New York Times reported:
"An internal report from the Agriculture Department has found that one of the nation's leading kosher slaughterhouses [in Postville, Iowa] violated animal cruelty laws and that government inspectors not only failed to stop the inhumane practices but also took improper gifts of meat from plant managers."

“The abuses at the Postville facility are only the tip of the iceberg,” says Jewish Vegetarians of North America President (JVNA) Richard Schwartz, PhD. “Gross mistreatment of animals in today's meat industry is widespread and constitutes a violation of Jewish teachings. These violations, combined with the overwhelming scientific evidence that eating animal products is detrimental to human health, and the fact that the Union of Concerned Scientists ranks animal agriculture as the second largest contributor to environmental destruction, after vehicles, constitute a strong wake up call to Jews and others to reevaluate their dietary habits.”

Jewish law mandates caring for our health, compassionate treatment of animals, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping the hungry. “The harsh realities of an animal-based diet violate each and every one of these fundamental Jewish Principles,” says Schwartz.

In light of these violations, there is a critical and urgent need for rabbis and other religious leaders to educate their congregations and students about the benefits of a shift toward plant-based diets, the Jewish vegetarian group says, and to encourage them to act now to protect their health, ensure the survival of the planet, and prevent needless and extreme and needless animal suffering. “It was the Jews, after all, who invented the concept of kindness to animals and who formulated an entire code of laws forbidding cruelty to other living creatures,” Schwartz reminds.

This year, JVNA has launched a campaign to make Earth Day 2006, which occurs on Saturday, April 22 this year, into an 'Environmental Shabbat,' and that would be an appropriate day to shift toward plant-based diets. "There is an epidemic of diseases and ailments in the Jewish community and other communities and the natural world is imperiled as perhaps never before by many environmental threats," asserted Schwartz, "and rabbis would can do a tremendous kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) by helping to put the many benefits of plant-based diets on the Jewish agenda, beginning on Earth Day.

Rabbis and other congregational and educational leaders can find extensive background information on the many connections between Judaism and vegetarianism at the JVNA web site ( The nonprofit organization will send a complimentary copy of "Judaism and Vegetarianism" by Richard Schwartz and an associated CD to any Jewish leader who wishes to use them as background educational material for possible vegetarian activities. Much additional information can be found by contacting JVNA at mailto:mail@. The group is eager to engage with rabbis and other Jewish leaders in a respectful public or private discussion of the issues.

Lewis Regenstein’s letter to the NY Times:
From: Lewis Regenstein
Subject: Cruelty is not kosher

To the Editor:

It is truly ironic, and shameful, that cruel animal slaughter methods are being undertaken in the name of Jewish law, as pointed out in your article "Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant" (March 10).

Revelations of shocking and illegal abuse of animals at this kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa have overlooked a fundamental fact: the Jewish religion has strict laws and teachings forbidding cruelty to animals. In fact, there is an entire code of laws (the requirement "to prevent the suffering of living creatures") mandating that other creatures be treated with compassion.

Indeed, the Jews invented the concept of kindness to animals some 4,000 years ago, and it is mandated throughout the Bible and Jewish law. Even the holiest of our laws, The Ten Commandments, requires that farm animals be allowed to enjoy a day of rest on the Sabbath. So the Almighty must have felt that kindness to animals was not a trivial matter.
Jews are not allowed to pass by an animal in distress or to ignore animals being mistreated, even on the Sabbath. Yet this is exactly what we do when we certify as kosher products from animals that are treated cruelly . It is truly a shanda, a shameful thing, that we endorse the massive abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear, and anguish, in addition to the cruel way they are killed.

Sincerely yours,
Lewis Regenstein

The writer is the author of Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the Worlds Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature, and president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature.

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7. Jewish Vegetarian Material at Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Thanks to JVNA advisor and author Dan Brook for placing material on Jewish vegetarianism at the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. It is at

Wikipedia. Is a free online encyclopedia that individuals can add information to on various topics. Rabbi Yonasan Gershom has previously put material on Judaism and vegetarianism in the encyclopedia. Please add appropriate material at the encyclopedia and keep an eye on Jewish vegetarian items to make sure that nobody Is adding inappropriate material or deleting appropriate material. Thanks.

Here's the entry at the encyclopedia on me.

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8. Canfei Nesharim Appoints a Paid Executive Director

CONTACT: Evonne Marzouk

March 6, 2006

Canfei Nesharim Hires Evonne Marzouk As Executive Director

Former Volunteer Becomes Jewish Environmental Organization's First Employee

WASHINGTON, DC-Canfei Nesharim ("The Wings of Eagles"), an organization dedicated to educating the Orthodox Jewish community about protecting the environment from the perspective of Torah and Jewish law, has announced the hiring of Evonne Marzouk of Washington, DC as Executive Director.

As Executive Director, a position which she previously held as a volunteer, Marzouk will serve as the organization's Chief Executive Officer and will report to the Board of Directors. Her primary responsibility will to coordinate activities that help the organization achieve its mission and financial objectives.

"This is truly an exciting moment, not only for me personally, but for all of us who have been trying to build Canfei Nesharim into a viable organization," Marzouk said. "Since we first started Canfei Nesharim as an all-volunteer organization in 2003, we have made tremendous strides
in educating the Orthodox Jewish community that Jewish law commands us to protect our environment. The fact that we have grown to the point that someone can be hired to continue to promote this message is very exciting and I am deeply honored that the Board of Directors has the confidence to entrust me with this position."

[I have sent Evonne a message congratulating hr and wishing her much continued success. A statement by Evonne is in the next item.]

Canfei Nesharim recently unveiled a new compendium of essays and sources of where Halacha (Jewish law) offers opinions and directives about the environment and its stewardship. The compendium, entitled Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment, is a cooperative effort of Orthodox Rabbis and scholars who see the importance of generating interest, discussion and study of the Torah-based imperatives for Orthodox Jews and others to act responsibly in the stewardship of the world. Along with the thoughtful, and sometimes provocative, essays are
text study sheets, in addition to a comprehensive bibliography of the environment in Jewish law.

Another successful Canfei Nesharim project is its annual Shabbaton, an opportunity for Orthodox Jews who care about the environment to meet with other Jews, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, who have the same commitment. The Shabbatons are a chance for all denominations of Jews to experience a traditional Orthodox Shabbat (Sabbath) and to learn more about Canfei Nesharim and its work to educate the Orthodox community about environmental issues.

"We initiated our annual Shabbatons as a lead-in to the COEJL (Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life) institute in Boston in 2004 and it was a huge success," said Marzouk. "We then had another successful event last year in Silver Spring, MD. Many Jews from all backgrounds are committed to helping our environment and we find that our annual Shabbaton is a great opportunity for Jews to come together to explore what Torah and Jewish law teach us on the subject, to learn what we can do to help and to share an experience that is meaningful, inspirational and fun!"

Canfei Nesharim's third annual Shabbaton [took place on] March 10-12 in Hillside, NJ.

Canfei Nesharim is guided by a Science Advisory Board and a Rabbinic Advisory Board that includes well-known scholars such as Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Rabbi Barry Freundel, Rabbi Michael Skobac and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti. International in scope, the organization's steering committee has members in Canada, England, Israel and the United States. Canfei Nesharim benefits from support from Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas, a project of JESNA, UJC, and the Kaminer Family.

Further information about Canfei Nesharim is available by visiting the Canfei Nesharim website at or by emailing

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9. Excerpts From the Latest Canfei Nesharim Newsletter

March 10, 2006 10 Adar 5766

Dvar Torah: Beneath the Surface of the Mitzvah of Bal Tashchit
Science Article: The Story of the Western Jerusalem Hills
Action Corner: Protect the Environment This Purim
Inquiries for the Eagle: Is eating fish good for my health?
Organizational Update
Upcoming Events and News
On A Wing
[Not every item in the Canfei Nesharim newsletter is in this newsletter.]

This email contains an abbreviated version of our latest newsletter.
Please click on any of the links below in order to view the full article from our website, or visit for the entire newsletter.


For the first time, I am writing this note as a paid staff person of Canfei Nesharim. As you have heard, I became Canfei Nesharim's first part-time staff person on March 6. It's an honor to be doing this work and a thrill to be paid for it!

I can't express my gratitude to Hashem and all the volunteers and funders of Canfei Nesharim who have made this moment possible. After three years of volunteer efforts from more than fifty people in communities around the world, we have finally reached this milestone in our movement to educate the Orthodox community about the importance of protecting the environment from a Torah perspective. I look forward to working with you all, and b'ezras Hashem [With Hashem’s help], to many future successes in the years to come.

I wish you all a Chag Purim Sameach and a joyous month of Adar!
~Evonne Marzouk

Beneath the Surface of the Mitzvah of Bal Tashchit
By: Akiva Gersh

Akiva Gersh is an educator and musician and has devoted a lot of his work to teaching about Jewish environmental ethics. He and his wife live on a moshav outside of Jerusalem.

There's a story of the Baal Shem Tov where he's walking with his chassidim and across the street he sees a little boy crying. He goes over to the child and asks him, "What's the matter? Why are you crying?" Through his choking tears, the little boy responds, "I'm playing hide-and-go-seek with my friends and I'm "It", but no one's looking for me." Upon hearing this the Baal Shem Tov looks up at his chassidim and says, "This is exactly how Hashem feels! Hashem created the entire world and then hid Himself in it, but no one's looking for Him!" We find ourselves now in the month of Adar, the month that is home to Purim, a holiday that is all about Hashem's hiding in the world and about our search for G-d's presence in the events of our lives and within the physicality of the world.

To read the full article, click here:

ACTION CORNER: Protect the Environment This Purim

What In the World Does PURIM have to do with the Environment?? Visit
Canfei Nesharim's Purim Page for great tips on protecting the
environment this Purim.

Visit our Purim Page at:
By: Ariella Cohen
Ariella Cohen is a student at Stern College for Women and Canfei
Nesharim's spring intern.

Question: Is eating fish good for my health?

Have you been confused about whether fish are good or bad for you? Our spring intern explores the benefits, and also the health and environmental concerns, behind eating fish.

Read the answer:
[For an approach that tries to respond to some of the myths related to the consumption of fish, please see my article.]


• Educators wanted: Canfei Nesharim is looking for a few good teachers in Orthodox day schools to help develop and pilot our new curriculum materials. Sound like you? Email to get involved.
• Intern Position: Work in our New York office, located in the heart of the Jewish organizational world. For more information, send your resume to
• Order your Compendium today! Visit to get your copy.
• Looking for a good tzedeka cause? Help us "take flight" by donating to our effort at

As our organization expands, we are looking for volunteers for synagogue and school program planning, materials development, website maintenance, and other projects. If you'd like to be involved, respond to this email or email!

Canfei Nesharim would like to share the following upcoming opportunities with our readership. These activities may not be directly affiliated with our effort, but may be of interest to Orthodox Jews who care about the environment. If you know of any event that might interest our members, please let us know and we'll consider adding it to this list.

**Mini-Grants for Local Organizers from Center for a New American Dream**
Can you help identify the resources in your community that can empower your neighbors to buy less, buy local, and buy in line with their values? Do you live in a community that could use a spark plug to initiate such a project and could then serve as a role model for other communities across the country? Do you have a couple hours per week to be that spark plug?

If you answered "YES!" to all three questions, the Center for a New American Dream is looking for candidates to apply for one of five pioneering mini-grants to develop local eco-friendly buying guides! For more information, visit, or if you're interested in helping out but don't have time to be a local organizer, add your name to their list of local advisors at:

Note: All materials published herein are Copyright 2006 by their authors. Reproduction of this material is encouraged so long as the footer and header information remains intact.

Many thanks to our volunteer steering committee who contributed to the development of this newsletter. If you would like to contributematerials or ideas to the newsletter, please contact us at

Canfei Nesharim is an organization of Orthodox Jews who are
dedicated to educating the Orthodox community about environmental
issues and their connection to Torah and halacha.


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10. Benefits of “Eco-kashrut” Activities

Nutritional consultant explains benefits of eco-kashrut
Staff Reporter [Canadian Jewish News]

By observing the laws of eco-kashrut we impact our own health as well as the health of our community and our environment, says Aviva Allen, a registered nutritional consulting practitioner.

Speaking at Torah in Toronto, a series of workshops sponsored by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Allen said the practice of eco-kashrut helps sanctify consumption so that we can elevate the physical world by acknowledging the holiness of our relationship to God’s world.

In observing eco-kashrut, she said, we seek food that is grown organically without pesticides, and avoid food additives, preservatives, colouring agents and artificial flavours. “It teaches us the essentials for healthy living.”

The simplest way to describe eco-kashrut, she said, is to take the word “kosher” and expand on it:
K – kinder to animals
O – obedience to God’s will
S – self-discipline
H – holiness
E – ethical consumption
R – reverence for life
In expanding our dietary laws, she said, we should add that we should not oppress workers or cause suffering to others or animals.
“Traditional kashrut is concerned with the treatment of animals, but only with regard to slaughtering. Eco-kashrut is concerned with how the animals are treated beforehand.

“Chickens are often raised in horrific conditions. There could be 50,000 broiler chickens cooped up in one barn, and they are given growth-promoting drugs. They get too big for their limbs to handle and they can’t walk.”

The chickens that are kept in cages in factory farms have no access to fresh air, she said, and often get angry. [To prevent them from pecking each other to death, farmers] cut their beaks off.

“Then they are given drugs to treat the stress that is related to being debeaked.”

Raising animals to produce veal is a clear violation of ethical behaviour, Allen said.

“In order to make the meat tender and pale in colour, animals are kept in the dark so they are deprived of iron. The question is, ‘Can veal ever be kosher?’ The answer is ‘yes’ because the animal is slaughtered properly. According to eco-kashrut, however, the answer is ‘no.’

We also have to be mindful of industries that oppress workers and provide poor working conditions, she said. “Dangerous pesticides are often used in growing grapes, and farm workers are exposed to them. They may have agreed to work on the farm, but according to Jewish law, it is still a violation, even if they have given permission.”

People must start thinking about ethical consumption, she said, not just about what they eat.

“Eco-kashrut is violated if they waste trees or use things that are not recyclable. They need to be mindful and make the right choices. We can observe traditional laws while addressing the concerns of Jews today.” We can make a difference through individual choices and through market power, she said. “We can buy local organic food, and if we stop buying veal, the stores will stop stocking it.

“Buy free-range organic eggs and chickens. Then you’ll know the chickens were raised in a humane way. [Please see another view on this below.]

“I’m not saying that everyone should be a vegetarian, but try to be a selective meat eater, such as on Shabbat or holidays. Try to think about the total chain of consumption.”

Response to the above article from "Pete" Pete Cohon

Let's talk Eco-Kashrut.

According to an article in the current edition of the Canadian Jewish News (above) (, nutritional consultant Aviva Allen is promoting eco-Kashrut in her seminars. According to her web site,, she also teaches seminars on vegetarianism. But, the article in the Canadian Jewish News quotes her as saying, "Buy free-range organic eggs and chickens. Then you'll know the chickens were raised in a humane way." Clearly, Aviva is someone who means well but who just hasn't gotten the message yet. The fact is that "free range" is a hoax. All an industrial chicken farm has to do is stuff thousands of birds in sheds with no light, no fresh air, hardly enough room to move around and keep a small opening available to that a few of the thousands of chickens have the theoretical ability to get outside for a bit and it's "free range." These "free range" chickens may not be kept in battery caging, but their lives are a horror, starting with the unanesthecized cutting off of the beaks of chicks so that they won't peck each other to death due to the horrific, overcrowded conditions of confinement. So, promoting free-range is really promoting a myth, not a compassionate reality. And, chickens killed for food, whether free-range or not, are sent to slaughterhouses where they are often scalded to death in boiling water and cut-up alive due to the fast moving production line.


In theory, that sounds great. But, "free range" is not kinder to animals, as has been described above. It simply allows us to pretend that we're eating less cruelly acquired food. Nor is it holier or showing reverence for life by ignoring the Jewish mandate of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, a mandate not to cause pain to any living being. Only true vegetarianism, or better yet, veganism (a diet free of all foods derived from animals) allows us to live a truly humane lifestyle in concert with kashrut. That's why, here at Veggie Jews, we say: Remember, it's only kosher if it's cruelty free (not cruelty-slightly-reduced). [This is not an halachic view.]

In addition, eco-Kosher is not even ecologically sound. There is nothing environmentally positive about the huge amounts of air and water pollution produced by factory chicken farms and runoffs from slaughterhouses.

Eco-Kashrut would be a good step in the right direction if it did not give the false impression that you can eat cruelty-free without going veggie. So don't be fooled by "eco-Kashrut." If you want to live a truly kosher and cruelty-free lifestyle, forget eco-Kashrut and go veggie for real. That way, you benefit your health, your environment and help to make this world a whole lot less cruel to other species. It's a no brainer if there ever was one.
[Note that Eco-kosher does not only relate to food, but to every product that we buy or use.]


You can also write to the Canadian Jewish News to urge folks to join the
real Jewish veggie movement by checking out Veggie Jews at
Pete Cohon,
Veggie Jews

[Comments/suggestions welcome.]

Veggie Jews is an on-line and real world organization with events in local communities dedicated to supporting Jewish vegans and vegetarians of all ages and projecting vegan, vegetarian and animal rights values into the Jewish community. Our non-Jewish friends are always welcome. Please tell a friend about us. We're on the web at

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11. Problems in the Chicken Industry Due to Bird Flu

Forwarded article:

No Time to Be in the Chicken Business
Published: March 10, 2006 NY TIMES

PARIS, March 9 — For European restaurants that serve mainly chicken, the last few weeks have been a nail-biting time.

KFC restaurants in Paris are offering specials and putting up posters to reassure customers their food is safe.

"Our chickens are well cooked, there's no danger at all," said Antoine Mendy, a manager in his 20's at a KFC restaurant on the broad Place de la Republique. Yet Mr. Mendy conceded that since Christmas, "we did have a dip in sales, though they're back; I think they're coming back."

What has kept his customers away, Mr. Mendy said over coffee, is uncertainty about avian flu. Though the bird flu virus is killed when chicken is cooked, and KFC, a unit of Yum Brands, has said little about its effect thus far on sales, the chain has put up posters intended to assure customers that the food is safe. KFC has also made promotional offers, especially aimed at children, of a chicken meal with toy for only 4 euros, about $4.80.

As cases of avian flu crop up across Europe, consumers are fretting. Sales of poultry at French supermarkets have plummeted, leading major chains like Auchan to offer two chickens for the price of one, a rarity in France.

Independent restaurants say they are hurting more than Kentucky Fried Chicken, as the KFC chain was formerly known.


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12. “Climate Change is Real and Must Be Addressed Now.”

The Planet Can't Wait
By David Ignatius
Washington Post article, March 8. 2006

Climate change is real and must be addressed now.

The warnings are coming from frogs and beetles, from melting ice and changing ocean currents, and from scientists and responsible politicians around the world. And yet what is the US government doing about global warming? Nothing. That should shock the conscience of Americans.

Actually, the Bush administration's policy is worse than doing nothing. It has resisted efforts by other nations to discuss new actions that could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide before the global climate reaches a disastrous tipping point. And it muzzles administration scientists to keep them from warning about the seriousness of the issue. The administration's position is that more research is needed - and then, as evidence grows that humans are adding to global warming, it calls for still more research.

Congress is no better. Most members apparently are waiting for permission from lobbyists and campaign contributors before getting serious about climate change. The McCain-Lieberman bill to cap emissions languishes in the Senate; Pete Domenici, the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, has issued a white paper calling for ideas for legislation, but there's no word when a bill might emerge from his committee. Meanwhile, the Senate environment committee is also claiming jurisdiction. So what we have in the Senate is a turf fight. And don't even talk about the House. Maybe members would get interested if they thought Dubai was behind global warming.

Giant corporations such as General Electric and Citigroup have concluded that global warming is real, and they are beginning to mobilize their resources to do something about it. This business activism may offer the best hope of moving government off its duff. I asked Tom Donohue, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce and one of Washington's savviest political operators, when he might commit his organization's considerable clout to taking action on this issue. He's still in the "needs more study" mode, but he added, "When the time is right, we'll be as helpful as we can." Hey, Tom, the time is right.

Every week brings new evidence that global climate change is real and that it's advancing more rapidly than scientists had expected. This past week brought a report in Science that the Antarctic is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year. Last month researchers reported that glaciers in Greenland are melting twice as fast as previously estimated. One normally cautious scientist, Richard Alley, told The Post's Juliet Eilperin he was concerned about the Antarctic findings, since just five years ago scientists had been expecting more ice. "That's a wake-up call," he said. "We better figure out what's going on."


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14. Great American Meatout Scheduled for Monday March 20, 2006/My Letter

The Great American Meatout is an annual Event Coordinated by FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement). For more information, see

What is Meatout? [From]

On (or around) March 20 — the first day of spring — thousands of caring people in all 50 US states and around the world will hold informative and educational Meatout events. Events will include colorful 'lifestivals,' street theater, lectures, public dinners, cooking demos, food samplings, leafleting, information tables called 'steakouts,' and a Congressional Reception in Washington, DC.

The occasion is The Great American Meatout, the world's largest and oldest annual grassroots diet education campaign. Every spring, thousands of Meatout supporters educate their communities and ask their friends, families, and neighbors to pledge to "kick the meat habit (at least for a day) and explore a wholesome, nonviolent diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains." continued...
Dear Editor,

The annual Great American Meatout, on Sunday, March 20th this year, provides a great opportunity for people to shift to a diet that can greatly improve human health, reduce the current massive mistreatment of farmed animals, and help shift our imperiled planet to a sustainable path.

Eating meat contributes significantly to the annual suffering and death of ten billion animals in the U.S. alone (50 billion worldwide); an epidemic of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases; the overuse of land, oil, water, and other natural resources (it takes as much as 14 times as much water for an animal-based diet than for a completely plant-based diet); global warming, rapid loss of biological diversity, destruction of tropical rain forests, coral reefs, and other valuable habitats; , the increased legitimization of violence; and increasing hunger (over 70 percent of the grain produced in the U.S. and over a third produced worldwide, is fed to animals destined for slaughter, as an estimated 20 people die annually worldwide due to hunger and its effects).

So, for a more healthy, humane, compassionate, just, and environmentally sustainable world, it is essential that people shift toward plant-based diets. And a great time to start is during the Great American Meatout.

For more information, see

Very truly yours,
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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